“Now might be a good time to rethink what a revolution can look like. Perhaps it doesn’t look like a march of angry, abled bodies in the streets. Perhaps it looks something more like the world standing still because all the bodies in it are exhausted—because care has to be prioritized before it’s too late.”
- Johanna Hedva (https://getwellsoon.labr.io/)
Hospitals are institutions, living sites of capitalism, and what gets played out when somebody is supposed to be resting is a microcosm of the larger system itself.
Institutions are set out to separate us from our care systems – we find ourselves isolated in structures that are rigidly hierarchical, and it often feels as if care is something done to us rather than given/taken as part of a conversation. Institutional care, because of its integration into capitalist demand, is silo-ed: one person is treating your leg and only your leg, another is treating your blood pressure, etc.
Photographer Mariam Mekiwi had to have surgery last month and documented the process. Her portraits of sanitized environments – neon white lights, rows after rows of repetitive structures – in a washed-out color palette reflect a place that was drained of life and movement. This was one of the ways Mariam kept her own spirit alive. It was a form of protest from within the confines of an institution she had to engage with.
The photos form a portrait of something incredibly vulnerable, because watching someone live through their own body’s breakdown is always a sacred reminder of our own fragility. It is also a reminder of the fragility of these care systems, which can be denied to us for a variety of reasons – from not having money to not being in a body that’s considered valuable enough, one that’s maybe too feminine, too queer or too brown.
Care experienced as disembodied and solitary, that is subject to revocation at any moment, doesn’t help us thrive. And it is very different from how human beings actually behave when they take care of each other. How different would our world look like if we committed to dismantling the current capitalist structures around our health? What would it look like if we radically reimagined it?